“Earlier, we had tongues but could not speak. We had feet but could not walk. Now that we have the land we have the strength to speak and walk!” This quote from women who received land titles in India’s Bodhgaya Land Rights Movement perfectly portrays how land rights empower women.
The struggle for women rights in Nepal has been an on-going battle with property rights being an important component. Although the situation as detailed below is pretty dismal, we have come a long way. From a civil code that limited inheritance rights for women and biases that determined property rights according to marital status and age, to passing of the Gender Equality Act and the Constitution forbidding gender based discrimination, thus granting daughters and sons equal rights to inherit property, progress is evident.
Furthermore, numerous progressive policies are currently in place to help increase land ownership of women. These include:
- Tax exemptions of 25%-50% (depending on geographical area) available to women during land registration, provided she does not sell the land within three years.
- 35% tax exemption for widows during land registration.
- 50% tax exemption when land is transferred within three generations of daughter or granddaughter.
- Joint Land Ownership which can be obtained for just Rs.100.
Why then is women land ownership in the country still dishearteningly low?
- Many women are unaware of the rights and benefits they possess.
- Women do not receive help in the implementation of their rights.
- Deep seated patriarchal norms make women feel that they do not need to own land, especially because of the fear that they risk divorce if they ask for land.
- Families are concerned that women owning land will deprive the family of an asset in the event of marriage or re-marriage and so they are discouraged from getting citizenship certificates.